Four weeks into his presidency, the list of significant whoppers Barack Obama has inflicted on the American people is amazingly long.
Where to begin? Let’s take a look at four statements he made at his first presidential briefing.
Earlier that day, on February 9, the president had told his Elkhart, Indiana, audience the following (all bolds are mine):
Economists from across the spectrum have warned that if we don’t act immediately … our nation will sink into a crisis that at some point we may be unable to reverse.
Unable to reverse? Possibly permanently? That’s how any reasonable reader would understand it.
At that evening’s prime-time briefing, the first question came from the Associated Press’ Jennifer Loven. Ms. Loven “just so happened” to be the first reporter on what was a pre-selected list of those who would be permitted to ask questions of His Excellency.
It is understandable that Obama gave Loven the coveted first slot. Her husband “just so happens” to be a former Clinton administration environmental official, a “senior adviser on energy and the environment” for Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry in 2004, and a leading light (if that’s possible) in the areas of alternative energy and climate change. To say that the Ballantine-Loven family stands to gain from the Obama administration’s love affair with “green jobs” would appear to be a very safe bet.
Thus, it’s not at all surprising that Loven, who surely knew how problematic Obama’s Elkhart statement was, and in general how dangerous the president’s no-confidence game of rhetorical overkill on the economy could turn out to be, graciously gave him a chance to back away from both, asking:
Earlier today in Indiana you said something striking. You said that this nation could end up in a crisis, without action, that we would be unable to reverse. Can you talk about what you know or what you’re hearing that would lead you to say that our recession might be permanent when others in our history have not? And do you think that you risk losing some credibility or even talking down the economy by using dire language like that?
That Jennifer Loven is clever, isn’t she? She turned “may be unable to reverse” into “would be unable to reverse,” transforming her question into the ultimate hanging curveball.
But despite having his first question served up mostly open-ended on a silver platter, the next painful sound viewers and listeners heard was that of Obama whiffing badly. Here’s how he began what inexplicably turned into a 900-word ramble:
No, no, no, no. I think that what I’ve said is what other economists have said across the political spectrum, which is that if you delay acting on an economy of this severity, then you potentially create a negative spiral that becomes much more difficult for us to get out of.
All he had to say was, “I only said that we might be unable to reverse the situation, not that it won’t be,” perhaps following it with a bit of elaboration. But instead, his answer was, in essence: “Jennifer, I like your husband and I like you, but who do you believe, me right now or your lying ears in Elkhart?”
In Elkhart, before a friendly crowd, Obama adopted the economists’ supposed “may be unable to reverse” assessment and used it as a reason to push for immediate passage of the so-called stimulus bill. At the briefing, he answered Loven as if he had never said it.
The president never got around to dealing with the “talking down the economy” part of Loven’s question. The AP reporter and “Democratic operative” (but I repeat myself) didn’t call him on it; she may have been too stunned at how he mishandled the first part to react.
The briefing was chock full of other whoppers. Here are just a few.
He claimed that “this Economic Recovery and Reinvestment Plan … will save or create up to four million jobs.” Put aside for the moment the numerical inconsistencies with previous claims that others have noticed. Candidate Obama always said his proposals would “create” jobs. He never said “save or create” or any variation on those two words — until after the election. Now all he talks of is “saving or creating,” laughably characterizing it at the briefing as “a measure of success.” Why? It’s not really measurable. As long as there are over four million Americans working (the real number is over 130 million), Obama can absurdly claim that all were “saved” and declare, “Mission accomplished.” The press has uniformly failed to question this astonishing abandonment of accountability since Obama’s election.
In various ways, Obama called out people “who just believe that we should do nothing” as his main opposition. That is patently false. Regardless of what one thinks of the Republicans’ alternative proposal, it was anything but “do nothing.” In fact, it claimed that it would create (not “save or create”) 6.2 million jobs in the next two years through a combination of income tax relief, small business tax breaks, extended unemployment assistance, and a credit to new homebuyers. Even the Washington Post’s Howard Kurtz called Obama’s characterization a “straw-man argument.”
Speaking of straw men — Obama said that “we’ve learned very clearly and conclusively over the last eight years, tax cuts alone can’t solve all of our economic problems — especially tax cuts that are targeted to the wealthiest few Americans.” Zheesh. No one ever said the Bush cuts would solve “all of our economic problems.” What was claimed was that tax cuts, especially the 2003 investment-related cuts, would lead to an economic recovery and higher federal tax receipts. They did both. After a mediocre previous two years, economic growth in the four fiscal years ended September 30, 2007, averaged 2.8% — not bad, considering the drags of Sarbanes-Oxley and non-stop press negativity. Tax receipts continually rose, mostly dramatically, from 2003 until spring 2008.
Maureen Dowd poked fun at the size of Obama’s ears in late 2006; his reaction was quite immature and a harbinger of the angry man we are occasionally seeing now. I’m starting to wonder if his nose hasn’t grown a bit longer since his election. At the rate he’s delivering whoppers to the American people, it won’t be very long before someone’s going to have to open any doors ahead of him.